Our History

History of New Hall and its School

New Hall School, founded in Liège, Belgium in 1642, is one of the oldest Catholic schools in the UK. The faith which lies at the heart of our school’s foundation, remains essential to its character today.

The religious order which founded the school, the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, is one of the most ancient in the Church. The English Religious Community was founded by English woman Susan Hawley in 1642 after she was trained in the Religious Life of the Holy Sepulchre in the Low Countries. The Community educated young girls who were sent to them from the earliest days of its foundation. The Community’s spirituality, rooted in the Augustinian tradition, has a special emphasis on the Resurrection, prayer, community life, hospitality and service to others.

The school offered a Catholic education to girls who were denied this in England at the time. However, in 1794, the French Revolutionary Wars forced the nuns out of the Low Countries and the school finally settled on its current site in 1799.

History of the New Hall Estate

New Hall has occupied the magnificent Tudor Palace of Beaulieu since 1799. The estate was acquired by King Henry VIII in 1517, at which time the building was greatly enlarged and enhanced. Henry VIII’s Royal Arms can be seen in the Chapel at New Hall. After Henry, New Hall became home to Mary Tudor, before being granted to the Earl of Sussex by Elizabeth I. Oliver Cromwell later procured the estate, for five shillings!

In 2009, Channel 4’s Time Team filmed at New Hall for their special feature-length documentary, Henry VIII’s Lost Palaces.

History of Preparatory Schooling at New Hall

The Preparatory School was founded in 1947 at Goodings, near Newbury, with just 14 pupils. The school thrived under the leadership of Headmistress Sr Magdalen John CRSS and, with 100 pupils, relocated to a larger campus at Denford Park, Hungerford, in 1953.

The school remained at Denford until 1967, at which time there were 150 pupils, many of whom were boarders and with some boys as well as girls. The Preparatory School was closed in 1967 and all resources were put into the development of New Hall Senior School. As a result, from a boarding school of around 140 girls in the 1960s, New Hall became, by the 1980s, a large boarding and day school for over 500 girls.

In 1994, the Preparatory School was re-established on the campus at New Hall. Opening with just 40 pupils, the school grew rapidly and, in 2003, the first Preparatory boarders were welcomed. A Pre-Reception provision was opened for pupils aged 3-4 in 2004.

New Hall School Today

Today, we continue to draw on our rich heritage and maintain traditional values, but we have evolved as a school to meet the needs of the modern age.

Katherine Jeffrey, the school’s first Lay Principal, was appointed in 2001. In 2005, the New Hall School Trust (NHST) was established as a new registered charity (1110286) and limited company (05472420) registered in England at New Hall School. The principle objective of the NHST, as set out in the Memorandum and Articles, is “to advance the Roman Catholic religion by the conduct of a Roman Catholic School”. The Religious Community now has a new main house in Colchester:

74 Howe Close, Colchester, Essex CO4 3XD Tel: 01206 867 296

In 2005, the announcement was made that the Senior School would embark on a period of further expansion, with the establishment of a separate Boys’ Division (11-16) and a co-educational Sixth Form. The Senior School now has equal numbers of boys and girls throughout the 11-18 age range and three boys’ boarding houses are fully established alongside the three girls’ boarding houses. The whole school roll now stands at its greatest ever, with over 1150 students. New Hall won the National Independent Schools Award for Outstanding Strategic Initiative in 2011, in recognition of the pioneering and innovative move to establish a diamond model school, together with the exceptional success in doubling the school roll and raising standards of academic and co-curricular achievements.

New Hall School belongs to the following professional associations:

  • Catholic Independent Schools’ Conference (CISC)
  • Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC)
  • Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA)
  • Incorporated Association of Preparatory School (IAPS)
  • Brentwood Diocesan Secondary Heads’ Association (BDSHA)
  • Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools (AGBIS)